A Blupete Biography Page

Admiral de la Motte

Emmanuel-Auguste de Cahideuc, Comte Dubois de la Motte (the French aristocrats bore such long and sophisticated names) was born in 1683 at Rennes, France, there to die in 1764. De la Motte spent his life in the service of the French navy. At the age of 16 he joined at Brest as a midshipman. Through out the The War of the Spanish Succession (1702-11) he was to distinguished himself. For example: he was at Gibraltar, when, in 1704, the place was put under a successful siege by the British; he was aboard a number of French ships in the English channel which preyed on English shipping; and was with the French fleet at Rio de Janeiro in 1711 where he was put at the head of the grenadiers (which bespeaks of the man's size and bravery).

With peace having been made in 1713, and the subsequent reduction in forces, de la Motte promotions through the years to 1744 were slow. Though he spent most of his time ashore in the naval establishments at Brest, nonetheless, he made captain by 1738. In 1744, war broke out, once again, between France and England, The War of the Austrian Succession (1744-48). This was just the ticket for the likes of de la Motte. During the war he conducted a number of campaigns in the West Indies. During the intermission between 1744 and 1756 (the start of the The Seven Years War) de la Motte was made Rear Admiral and was the general of Saint-Dominigue (Hispaniola) where he was to remain for two years.1

Though at its outbreak, Admiral de la Motte was to be 73 years old, the The Seven Years War was to bring fresh adventures to this vibrant Frenchman. Indeed the year before, he was put in charge of a French fleet which left Brest on May 3rd, 1755. Aboard were six battalions of French soldiers destined for Louisbourg and for Quebec. De la Motte was successful in his mission, viz., to deliver troops and supplies to the French in America. However, four of his ships, in June of 1755, off the coast of Nova Scotia, were to have a run in with a British fleet.

In 1757, this veteran of the sea, de la Motte, was to come to Louisbourg with one of the largest fleets ever sent out from France.2 The French had wind that there was to be an attack and they meant to stop the English in their seagoing tracks, and in fact, that year, did so by their mere presence. Holburne's fleet, however, did cruise off Louisbourg during August of 1757. The British kept their position and more than one attempt was made to draw La Motte out of port; they were not successful in that regard. On September 25th, 1757, a violent North Atlantic storm, off the coast of eastern Cape Breton, blew in and almost did the British fleet in. This event gave an opportunity which de la Motte failed to cash in on. De la Motte's fleet rode out the storm in the safety of Louisbourg Harbour, and while not unscathed by the storm, the fleet was in much better shape than that of the British. Maybe it was too much to ask of de la Motte and his crews, as mentioned they too had been storm tossed and apparently they had been suffering from a lot of sickness in the ranks; but still, in all, they had to be a lot better off than the British were and ought to put the best of their fleet to sea and to do the work for which they were built.

De la Motte's fleet, within the month of the big storm, lifted anchors and cleared Louisbourg Harbour on October 30th, 1757. The fleet, carrying 5,000 sick men, was to arrive at Brest on November 23rd. This would appear to have been the last trip for our old veteran. Admiral de la Motte, as previously mentioned, was, in 1764, to die at the place he was born, Rennes, France.


[1] DCB.

[2] See McLennan's work, Louisbourg, at a fn at p. 203 for a full listing of all the French war ships at Louisbourg, some twenty-four of them.


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Peter Landry
2012 (2020)